January 11, 2012

Christians Are Called To Shine With the Glory of God

In January we begin a New Year and many people pause to reflect on their lives and make resolutions on what to do in the New Year. It helps if you have some idea of the purpose of human life. As Christians we are different because we do not believe that the purpose of life is to die with the most toys, the biggest house or the largest investment portfolio. Christians believe that the purpose of life is to be a sign of the glory of God. The Readings chosen for today remind us that God chooses holy people and reveals Himself to them so they will be filled with joy and reflect His glory.

1.     God chooses holy people
The Readings include two call stories – the call of Samuel and the call of Nathaniel. Why is Samuel chosen instead of the priestly sons of Eli? If we read around the call story we learn that the two sons of Eli had blasphemed God, had not repented and had not been rebuked by Eli. Both Eli and his sons had made themselves unholy by their failure to respect the authority of God. In contrast, notice the humility of Samuel. Notice how he never even thinks that God might want to talk to him. His life is focussed on serving God by serving Eli.

The call of Nathaniel is very similar. Jesus describes him as without guile. Guile is a word we do not hear often. It is the same word used to describe Satan in his deception of Eve. Satan uses words which confuse the situation and let Eve hear what she needs to hear – she will not die. This very subtly shifts the focus away from the truly awe-filled consequence of disobedience - separation from God and loss of eternal life; to mere physical life. Guile helps others deceive themselves into making bad choices. Guile is the opposite of the modern value of transparency. The bottom line is that people who deliberately deceive or manipulate others  - for example political people, cannot become deeply spiritual people. This is a great challenge to us in the Church as we have to try and work together as spiritual people in what is essentially a political organization.

2.     God reveals Himself to holy people
God revealed Himself to Samuel, Nathaniel and the Apostle Paul because they were already holy men. This is not rocket science. Over and over we are told God is holy. That which is holy cannot be around that which is unholy. Paul is explaining that or bodies are to be a temple for God in the form of the Holy Spirit. The examples of John the Baptist and Jesus purifying themselves through testing in the wilderness before engauging in ministry teach us how important holiness is.

The consequence is that holy people are going to have personal experiences of God that may not be available to others. Samuel for example grows up to be one of the most prolific Old Testament prophets. Samuel 1 and 2 take up 57 pages in my Bible. We believe Samuel probably heard the audible voice of God pleading with His people to turn away from idolatry and the worship of the foreign gods around them and return to their special covenant relationship.

Nathan is also promised he will ‘see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man’. This is shorthand for a supernatural worldview. The exciting thing about being chosen – and we are all chosen, is that if we live up to our calling we may be blessed with personal revelations of the spiritual dimension. Roughly 20 % of the population have had concrete personal experiences of the supernatural. Others may have received less dramatic gifts such as the gift of healing, words of knowledge or even just a feeling of joy. These experiences connect us to the divine in a more powerful way. They open our spiritual eyes to the truth of a reality we might have had trouble believing in. They motivate us to go deeper in our spiritual life.

3.     Holy people shine with the glory of God
The letters of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles are full of stories of early Christian experiences of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. We seem to have forgotten that the norm is that all serious Christians receive the gifts (plural) of the Holy Spirit. This is a sign from God that we are really in right relationship with Him.

The early Saints are often painted with a hailo of light around their heads. I can remember being at charismatic worship services and Cursillos and seeing people radiating the love, joy and peace of a holy person. This is not a common experience, but it is an experience that does come to some people who have made a serious effort to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus is more than knowing about or believing in Jesus. Following is an action word. It means you make the same choices or do the same things as Jesus. This challenges us to be like a light shining in a dark place. It means confronting un-godly decisions or behaviour and giving people hope that there was something more, something better. This is what Jesus did. Following Jesus means taking risks, particularly the risk of being unpopular with some people. Nice guys don’t get crucified.

But following Jesus also means experiencing great joy. It means we get to save people from meaningless lives of frustration and fear. It means being ‘filled more and more with the gifs of the Holy Spirit’. This is what your Bishop prayed over you when you were Confirmed as a Christian. The Good News is that this new found joy is so great it may even be visible to those around you.

We are all called to shine as signs of the Glory of God!

No comments:

Post a Comment